2016 Infiniti QX50 First Review
Remember the Infiniti QX50? Did you ever know it? We'll understand if you answered no to either or both of those questions. The QX50 is Infiniti's compact luxury crossover SUV. Until 2013 it was known as the Infiniti EX, before the luxury automaker made the questionable decision to begin the name of every model with a Q (to designate sedans and coupes) or QX (for SUVs). But the QX50 struggled for recognition long before Infiniti's potentially confusing naming convention. And that's a shame, because it was among the first of its kind when it debuted in 2008 and has continued to be a smart alternative to rivals such as the BMW X3, Mercedes-Benz GLK and Audi Q5 in the years since.
But there was reason for the Infiniti QX's lack of attention. One of the biggest gripes shoppers had was its lack of rear-seat room. Even for a compact crossover geared toward the young and upwardly mobile or empty-nester, buyers expected easier access into the rear and better legroom once there.
Bigger, Better, Less Expensive
Infiniti has heard that message loud and clear, and has rectified that issue while also making the new QX50 a more desirable small luxury SUV in other ways. The 2016 Infiniti QX50 is slightly bigger than its predecessor, coming in over 4 inches longer in total length and a 3.2-inch stretch in wheelbase. This benefits rear-seat legroom with an increase of 4.3 inches. Of course, numbers are one thing, sitting back there is another. We climbed into this refreshed Infiniti and found the room more than suitable for two average-sized adults. Yes, this 2-row luxury SUV technically seats up to 5, but that means three across the rear bench, and that could become tight quickly.
In addition to its size increase, Infiniti has gifted the new QX50 with extra content to further its appeal. Standard features include leather seating, sunroof, heated front seats, dual-zone climate control and a wonderful V6 engine. Though it has grown in size and content, the 2016 QX50's price has actually dropped $550 compared to the outgoing model. A rear-drive QX50 now starts at $35,445, and an all-wheel-drive model comes in at $36,845. Realistically, you'd be hard-pressed to find one without the $500 Premium Package, but it's a screaming deal of a bundle that includes an 11-speaker Bose sound system, driver's seat memory system, power-adjustable steering wheel, auto-dimming rearview mirror, maple interior accents and aluminum roof rails.
Sporty driving manners
What hasn't changed are the Infiniti QX50's driving manners. And that's a good thing. Since its debut, this small Infiniti SUV has been referred to as a G35 (and consequently G37 and then Q50) sport sedan in hatchback form.
The latest model carries on that reputation. Its engine and transmission combo stay the same, and we won't complain. This is among the few compact luxury SUVs to offer a V6 as standard (the Acura RDX does, too). But the Infiniti's real ace card is its standard rear-wheel-drive (RWD) layout. Where other competitors such as the RDX, Lexus NX, Cadillac SRX, Lincoln MKC and Volvo XC60 come with a front-drive configuration, the Infiniti QX50 joins the ranks of the Porsche Macan and BMW X3 with rear-drive as standard. This gives the Infiniti the driving characteristics of a sports car, where the rear wheels push the car and the front ones only have to tend to steering. Even in all-wheel-drive (AWD) form, the 2016 QX50 favors a rear-drive bias, sending 0 to 50 percent power to the front wheels only when needed.
The result indeed makes this crossover SUV feel more like an athletic sports sedan. The QX50 is agile in corners, its steering is on the heavy side, and the 7-speed automatic transmission is quick to get down to business, especially in the Sport mode. Driven back to back, the RWD QX50 felt slightly lighter, no doubt helped by its 165-pound weight difference compared to the AWD version.
And then there's the Infiniti's engine. Where others are going to boosted 4-cylinder powerplants, the 2016 QX50 sticks with the tried and true 3.7-liter V6 that makes 325 horsepower. That's 46 more ponies than the V6 in the RDX and 90 more horsepower than what's in the Lexus NX. The tradeoff, though, is in efficiency. Where the Acura musters up to 29 mpg/highway, the Infiniti tops out at 24 mpg.
If you want an entry-level luxury SUV that emphasizes power and fun driving dynamics, the new Infiniti QX50 deserves a very hard look. Best of all, it's a striking value. That you can get a very well-equipped QX50 for under $36,000 proves that luxury, practicality, dynamics and value are not mutually exclusive in a small SUV.
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